Talk Hole is the bi-weekly spoken column of New York’s alt-comedy darlings Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst, offering their oracular powers of cultural analysis on all corners of the zeitgeist (high, low, top, bottom). On a visit to Mexico City for Material Art Fair, Schwartau and P-H (as Steven is lovingly referred) prove talk is chic and drop references to hot trends, hotter temperatures, and scalding political debates. This time around, Talk Hole discusses their day at a bull fight, Amy Klobuchar’s hair, and the election process in America as a season of Drag Race.
SCHWARTAU: I’m not ready for this. I’ve learned so much today, it’s insane.
P-H: I wonder what knowledge had to leave your head for new stuff to get in there.
SCHWARTAU: I had to give up French, unfortunately, to let a little Spanish in. I would love a drink.
P-H: They have natural wines here.
SCHWARTAU: Let’s just get drinks. Mexico is not really a wine spot.
P-H: No, it’s not a wine space. Let’s start with the big question: How was the murderous bull fight?
SCHWARTAU: Well, I hate blood and I don’t want to see animals get hurt. But last night, two straight guys were angrily insisting we go, defending bull fight culture, saying it’s one of the last bull fights you can go to because it’s canceled now. So I said yes because when in Mexico, you should go to things.
P-H: So bull fighting is MAGA?
SCHWARTAU: I posted an Instagram story at the fight and the two Mexican people I know from New York both responded, “Canceled.” Woke Mexicans clearly think it’s antiquated and cruel. And I do too. Anyway, the stadium is this giant, perfectly circular ring.
P-H: As opposed to an arena that’s an imperfect circle?
SCHWARTAU: Well, usually you go to a sports venue and it’s an oval.
P-H: So true. Sports venues are obsessed with long ovals. They’re quite vaginal. This sounds more anal.
SCHWARTAU: Very anal. This was a hole. And it’s all pageantry and everyone’s chanting. When the matador does his little red cape shake, he does a sequence like a figure skater. So, he’ll get the bull to charge and then if he gets another one, it’s like a double axel and everyone says, “¡Ole!“
P-H: What they’re cheering for is actually the sequence—not so much the individual moves but the combination.
SCHWARTAU: Yes, that shows talent. And talent wins.
P-H: Talent is a sequence. You can’t just go up on stage and tell one joke. It’s, can you tell four in a row, that all land and build?
SCHWARTAU: In many ways, no I can’t. So then these four rodeo clowns with pink capes are all running around distracting the bull, and a second matador comes out and he gets these two, I don’t know, they’re like harpoons but they stick in the bull’s body and fall down to the side.
P-H: So, the bull has been stabbed?
SCHWARTAU: The bull gets stabbed and is made a fool of and everyone cheers for the matador and then the bull gets murdered.
P-H: You know what this makes me think of?
SCHWARTAU: I’m waiting.
P-H: There’s sort of a drunk guy at the club who’s making out with everyone—he’s the club whore and everyone loosens him up and then at the end of the night, as the lights are coming on, you go over and he’s absolutely a done deal. You just take him home.
SCHWARTAU: He’s the bull and you’re the matador.
P-H: Exactly. You have your little outfit on, you wait for everyone else to do the hard work and then swoop in with a fabulous sequence of flags.
P-H: ¿Uno negroni por favor?
SCHWARTAU: Margarita mezcal.
P-H: Gracias. This just seems like such a clear-cut metaphor for toxic masculinity.
SCHWARTAU: It was. I was disgusted by it. Though I ate flank steak today, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. People have their culture and that’s that.
P-H: Cultural relativism is a point that certainly gets lost, especially in hand-wringing Western liberalism.
SCHWARTAU: Yeah, the crowd was having so much fun. There were kids buying cotton candy. Maybe if my parents had taken me to bull fights when I was five years old, I wouldn’t be as afraid of blood and death.
P-H: These would’ve been bull fights in the greater Sacramento region?
SCHWARTAU: Yeah, in Davis, California. They would’ve built character.
P-H: I’m picturing the Davis bull fight. All the matadors ride around on little electric scooters. So you didn’t conquer your fear of blood?
SCHWARTAU: No. Everyone cheered during the most violent parts, but I was squirming. Although the two Canadians I was with seemed like they’d seen slaughter.
P-H: People think that we’re going to compare Mexico to America, but we’re going to be comparing Mexico to Canada!
P-H: Canadians are known for being very deferential and polite, and Mexicans are also very polite and nice. But in New York, everyone is screaming at each other 24/7. I’d say most big cities around the world feel like there’s a lot of tension in the air. You walk through Athens, you walk through Paris, you walk through New York, you walk through Chicago—
SCHWARTAU: I do that daily. I go to Athens. I get my steps in.
P-H: And there’s fights, there’s drama! But here, it’s very calm. Also here, there’s a million little jobs. There’s so many people sweeping the street. Every restaurant has so many employees. You go to a restaurant in New York and it’s just one overworked, bitchy gay waiter.
SCHWARTAU: Oh, bread. Gracias.
P-H: I feel like Canadian deference comes from this sort of cucked, sort of passionless—gracias.
[Waiter places down waters.]
SCHWARTAU: Look at these gorgeous waters. I don’t know if my Canadian friends are going to appreciate you calling them cucked.
P-H: Canada knows what their issue is. Mexico has its own identity, its own culture, whereas Canada is not differentiated from the U.S. at all.
SCHWARTAU: Canada’s very cold and big.
P-H: But everyone just lives within an hour of the U.S. border.
SCHWARTAU: They’re obsessed with us.
P-H: It’s like, back off!
SCHWARTAU: We need space. I need space.
P-H: I need Vancouver to move 20 miles north. Cheers!
SCHWARTAU: Cheers! My mezcal margarita is in a martini glass.
P-H: My Negroni is very ice-forward. Have we settled the debate? Mexico versus Canada?
SCHWARTAU: Have we even started the debate? Yeah um, fuck NAFTA. I will say, I have been calling Mexico “Séxico.”
P-H: And it caught on.
SCHWARTAU: Did it?
P-H: Andrés said it the other night. He was the only person who laughed at it.
SCHWARTAU: Okay, Séxico it is. You heard it here first. Book your ticket.
P-H: Being sexy is good and people, places, and things should want to be sexy.
P-H: It’s a noble and a morally sound goal to have.
SCHWARTAU: It gives you a sense of purpose.
P-H: Of course, sexy doesn’t just mean va-va-voom.
SCHWARTAU: Right, and we don’t want to eroticize Mexico, because it’s actually a very Catholic entity.
P-H: Right, and America’s a very—
P-H: A Puritanical company.
SCHWARTAU: A Protestant company.
P-H: And Pete [Buttigieg] is our new CEO.
SCHWARTAU: Oh god.
P-H: But I think places can be sexy in many different ways and for many different reasons. Vermont is sexy and Vermont is certainly not va-va-voom in any way.
SCHWARTAU: That’s the hill you’re going to die on? Vermont is sexy?
P-H: What’s sexy is being yourself. Mexico knows who she is. Vermont knows who she is. Canada does not.
SCHWARTAU: I’m sure if Pete ever came here, he’d only hang out in Polanco with all the fresas. Okay, we need to talk politics because we are political pundits.
P-H: The election process in America is a Gemini. It is nine-faced and it cannot be trusted.
SCHWARTAU: You’re a Gemini.
P-H: I’m a Gemini, Donald Trump is a Gemini, and neither of us should be president, except for me. Now you have the news media which is realizing it wins when there is anger, when there is dissension, when things don’t make sense.
SCHWARTAU: It’s like Drag Race. You have as many competitors as possible and everyone’s just waiting to get their moment.
P-H: And they’re always bringing the old queens back. It’s like Bloomberg, speaking of old queens. She’s back and trying to buy the election.
SCHWARTAU: She comes back in episode five.
P-H: There’s Tom Steyer, this queen that’s not getting any screen time and you keep forgetting she’s still on the show and you’re like, “How did Kameron Michaels make it all the way to the final four? Why is she here?”
SCHWARTAU: This is why it’s nice to get away. I didn’t watch the debate because I was in Mexico and I didn’t watch the Oscars because I was in Mexico, though I did try to log on to ABC.com.
P-H: We are actually currently not watching the Oscars. Okay, I’m guessing Parasite won Best Picture. Or they’re going to be like, “With 91% of precincts reporting, 1917 won the most votes but it didn’t get the most delegates in the second round of elimination…”
SCHWARTAU: There should be more transparency in the Oscar voting.
P-H: My other prediction is that everyone will make such a “now more than ever” speech. When a woman director wins or Moonlight wins, it doesn’t suddenly mean that now we’ll have so much more representation in movies.
SCHWARTAU: Maybe Parasite wins and opens the door for more South Korean films to win Oscars. But the Oscars are just like … the American awards for film. There are so many other ways to measure success.
P-H: People want their spoils though, you know? Korea is ascendant—especially culturally—in beauty, music, and film. They’d like some Oscars!
SCHWARTAU: Their soft power is through the roof.
P-H: In the same sense that you have a lot of gay people now wanting a gay president. It’s like, it’s finally our time, we’re going to get our gay president.
SCHWARTAU: I thought you were going to be like, “There are a lot of gay people now who want to get on the Out 100.” Can we just put Pete Buttigieg on the Out 100 and call it a day?
P-H: He should be happy with that. Speaking of Pete … [Amy] Klobuchar.
SCHWARTAU: We’re becoming fast friends.
P-H: Klob mob, assemble. I didn’t watch the debate, but several people texted me that her hair had stopped moving.
SCHWARTAU: You often say that your bullying produces results.
P-H: It does. I bullied Kamala [Harris] out of the race. I bullied Beto [O’Rourke] out of the race. I bullied Amy about her hair by starting a Twitter called Amy Klobuchar’s Hair that’s just mostly about how she was shaking. I’ve become associated with this narrative about her hair having a lot of movement and a sort of lack of stability.
SCHWARTAU: Earthquake vibes.
P-H: And now she’s managed to get it under control. I don’t know if it was new hairspray, or some sort of complicated glue apparatus. Could’ve been a wig. But I’m taking credit.
SCHWARTAU: Well, it shakes because she’s shaking. Maybe she took some beta blockers.
P-H: A Beto blocker. Is Klobmentum real though?
SCHWARTAU: She’s immensely more qualified than Pete and way more fun. Freelance mayor doesn’t sound very presidential.
P-H: Obama was a senator for two seconds before he was president. What people found compelling about him was his background and his story.
SCHWARTAU: But Obama was hot.
P-H: I think every single primary is going to be this photo finish, and they’ll keep calling the results into question. The establishment will try to switch between Bloomberg and Pete and Klob, maybe. But they’re in disarray and the one thing Bernie has is that his side of the party is not in disarray. The left is coalescing around him. But it’s going to continue like this until it’s a contested convention. It’s the most Drag Race scenario possible.
SCHWARTAU: There’ll be two winners, which Ru invented on All Stars Three.
P-H: Four. What about you, are you still a closet [Elizabeth] Warren stan?
SCHWARTAU: I understand why she’s a problem for Bernie, but I still like her. Just like Liz, I was a Republican in eighth grade. I am willing to admit it.
P-H: Did you vote for George W. Bush in a mock election?
SCHWARTAU: It was Bush versus Gore. I voted for Bush.
SCHWARTAU: I didn’t know any better.
P-H: You’re the reason we are having global warming right now.
SCHWARTAU: The eighth grade mock election is crucial. It’s the first primary. Can we talk about coronavirus? I can’t imagine having to watch Hustlers with a mask on. People have been so racist about the whole thing around the world.
P-H: What did you think of Hustlers?
SCHWARTAU: I was very into the scene where J-Lo and Constance Wu were cooking ketamine.
P-H: You related to that.
SCHWARTAU: Ketamine’s big, I hear.
P-H: Drugs are fun.
SCHWARTAU: Drugs bring people together. And not doing drugs also brings people together.
P-H: It brings Canadians together.
SCHWARTAU: Canadians do drugs! Yes, we do drugs. I’ve hung out with Canadians for 24 hours and now I’m Canadian. I loved the Material Art Fair, by the way.
P-H: Yeah, I liked the way this fair was set up. Usually an art fair is this big, boring, carpeted convention center. But this was a tighter space, with three levels of scaffolding, which is a great metaphor for—
SCHWARTAU: The state of the art world?
P-H: And the state of most artists’ careers. There were definitely some trends. I noticed fiber is huge right now.
SCHWARTAU: Fibers. Textures. Walls.
P-H: Wall hangings. I have a big huge fiber piece hanging in my living room. I’m kind of a big progenitor of that trend.
SCHWARTAU: Are you trying to get someone to rob your apartment of your Sophie Stone?
SCHWARTAU: Can you just say your address, please?
SCHWARTAU: And your door code?
P-H: There’s no code.
SCHWARTAU: Our Airbnb literally has this fancy door code thing and I’m just like, in New York I’m juggling so many keys.
P-H: I’ve said this before, but the irony is, America’s one of the world’s richest countries, but New York’s infrastructure is a mess.
SCHWARTAU: Nothing works.
P-H: It’s the oldest, messiest city. Driving down the streets I get nauseous on one bumpy block. Everything’s in disrepair. The subways are these little rat tunnels full of piss and they’re terrifying to be inside. America’s just so stratified. We don’t prioritize making society livable and nice for regular people.
SCHWARTAU: Everyone’s just hoarding money.
P-H: We’re locked up in our little fucking McMansions, driving our Chevy Suburbans to the fucking church and then to Arby’s and then to Target and then to the gay sauna.
SCHWARTAU: And then grabbing a Diet Coke at McDonald’s. Okay, are we ending this?
P-H: Our trip to Mexico?
SCHWARTAU: I wanted to give a shout out to AeroMexico for a great flight.
P-H: I’m glad they purchased that whole new fleet of Dreamliners. Shout out to Boeing—they’ve really been under the gun lately. Maybe they were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, but the Dreamliner’s gorgeous.
SCHWARTAU: For every “bad flight,” shall we say, there are thousands and thousands of good flights.
P-H: As they say, they don’t report on all the planes that land safely, or all the caucus precincts that were counted correctly.
SCHWARTAU: I think we can end there.
P-H: ¡Adios, amigo!